Today is Opening Day for Major League Baseball. It’s always one of the happiest days of the year for me. That’s because it usually features the Mets taking the field and playing in a game that matters for the first time in months. Every team has a fresh start and anything is possible. Last year, we learned that the hard way when a pandemic lockdown wiped out more than half of the regular season and the Miami Marlins qualified for the playoffs. In 2021, I’m hoping for the good kind of “anything is possible,” like the Mets winning the World Series for the first time in 35 years.
We’re not off to a good start, though. New York’s opening game has been postponed because the Washington Nationals have multiple players are their team who are infected with COVID-19. We still don’t know when the Mets will play their first game, but being behind schedule right off the bat is putting them at a disadvantage. Hopefully it’s not big enough of a disadvantage to make up for having the richest owner in baseball. That’s what Steve Cohen is and it’s why he represents a renewed hope that the Mets can become a consistent contender for the National League pennant.
They got one step closer to that goal on Wednesday night when the front office completed a $341 million contract to keep the newly acquired Francisco Lindor in Queens for the next decade. The Mets can now build around an elite starting pitcher in Jacob deGrom and a five-tool shortstop. What’s not to like? Well, I’m skeptical of any baseball contract that goes longer than seven years. That’s how long the Mets signed Carlos Beltran for in 2005 and the deal expired just as Beltran was losing the ability to play a top-tier center field. Not only did the Mets get incredible production out of Beltran, but they were able to flip him for Zack Wheeler right before he became a free agent.
Nowadays, though, the best players in baseball sign for 10, 12, or even 14 years depending on how young they are. If you want a top player in his prime, you are going to have to take him when he’s old and washed up. That’s why I’m already worried about what Lindor looks like toward the end of his deal even though I should be focused on the amazing things he can do for the Mets in the near future. Having an aging star player making a ton of money on the roster can cause problems in the clubhouse if the star’s skills diminish faster than his ego and also in the front office if the star’s salary prohibits the team from extending complimentary players.
We don’t expect the latter to be an issue with Cohen, but let’s see what happens when Michael Conforto becomes a free agent this winter? Can the Mets afford to offer him the money he is going to demand or will he be the first major contributor that the team has to part ways with because of the Lindor deal? I think what scares me the most about the 10-year commitment is that Lindor hasn’t yet played a game for the Mets. It’s one thing to anchor the franchise to someone like David Wright who was drafted by the team and was already the clear clubhouse leader when the Mets extended him. With Lindor, many fans assume he will fit in great, but you never know until he has to spend a full season with his teammates and the press.
So yeah, the Lindor contract is still a big win for the Mets because it makes them a serious contender in the short term. That’s not going to stop me from fretting over the massive commitment, but maybe a few clutch hits and some Gold Glove defense can change that.